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Re: GPL-ed code in a driver for a proprietary OS

From: richardlang
Subject: Re: GPL-ed code in a driver for a proprietary OS
Date: Wed, 07 Nov 2007 20:17:48 -0800
User-agent: G2/1.0

On Nov 8, 3:01 pm, John Hasler <> wrote:
> Richard writes:
> > Think of the example of Microsoft or another proprietary OS vendor taking
> > some GPL-ed device driver code written for linux, putting a wrapper
> > around it in order to use it as a driver DLL and incorporating it into
> > their OS without needing to open source anything but the driver itself.
> You evidently didn't read the entire quotation:
>   However, as a special exception, the source code distributed need not
>   include anything that is normally distributed (in either source or binary
>   form) with the major components (compiler, kernel, and so on) of the
>   operating system on which the executable runs, _unless that component
>   itself accompanies the executable_.
> Read the underlined part.  It is specifically intended to prevent
> closed-source OS vendors from doing as you suggest.  When the GPL was
> written Linux did not exist.  Free Software had to run on closed-source
> operating systems: that's all there were.  The GPL was written with that
> situation in mind.

I'd interpreted the statement "unless that component itself
accompanies the executable" to mean that the system component linked
to the GPL-ed executable had to be reliably available on target
platforms for the exclusion to apply, if it's presence was unreliable
to the point that it needed to be distributed with the GPL-ed
executable then no exclusion.

> > I'd think that would be clearly against the spirit of the full GPL
> > licence as the Free Software Foundation see it, and as they drafted the
> > license I'd think that their opinion carries the weight legally and
> > morally.
> Their opinion carries no legal weight whatsoever with respect to software
> in which they own no copyright.  The GPL is a model license, not a law and
> the FSF is a private foundation, not a court.

In my "not a lawyer" opinion it would have to be presumed that, unless
indicated otherwise, the copyright holder, in choosing to license
their work under the GPL, interpret it to mean the same thing as the
FSF, the authors of the GPL, clearly indicate it as meaning.

Come on everyone, we only need a couple more people to put in their 2
cents worth and we've got the makings of
"yet another GPL flame war"



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